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Survival and Success in Your Freshman Year

Author: Ken Bordat

Survival and Success in Your Freshman Year

Book Series: Survival


Congratulations. If youíre reading this, then you have likely been given the great privilege of going to college. As the word privilege implies, not everyone gets this fantastic chance, so count yourself lucky.

Youíve worked hard to get this far. All of that homework, and those special classes in high school, all of those submissions youíve filled out, the essays youíve written, and even some interviews youíve had to go to. Youíve combed the universities until you found the best one for you. This is a huge accomplishment, and you should feel proud of yourself!

However, the hard work isnít over yet. In fact, itís just beginning. Whether you are reading this of your own volition or because your guidance counselor, your parents, or someone else you look up to, has suggested that you take a look, one fact remains - you want to make the most of your freshman year of college.

Right now youíre probably experiencing a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and maybe even some dread. Big changes are afoot for you. For one thing, youíre probably getting ready to move away from home for the first time in your life. Maybe youíre nervous about the amount of work that you can expect to undertake once you arrive at college. What about your friends and family? How are you going to survive without them?

Thatís why weíre here. We want you to have the most successful freshman year that you can possibly have. From learning how to deal with homesickness, to getting along with your roommate, to even acing your classes, weíre ready to give you the insider secrets that you need to make the most out of your freshman year of college.

Are you ready? Get out a pad and paper, because there is a lot to learn and take in. College is going to give you a bit of sensory overload. Do you want to make friends first? Do you want to impress your professors? How about learning to do that little thing called laundry that you completely forgot to learn about back home?

Letís get going with our first section!


The first gift you can give yourself at your new campus, whether youíre living there or elsewhere, is to get as familiar with the grounds as possible. In this section, weíre going to go over everything you want to know the location of before your very first day of class.


When you receive your schedule, it will tell you what building and room number your class is expected to be in. (If it hasnít been decided yet, make sure that you find out at least a couple of days beforehand.) As soon as you can, go over your campus map and pinpoint your class buildings. Then take a walk to the buildings, discover any special requirements for getting inside, and find the actual room itself.

This is critical. The last thing you want is for it to be the first day of classes and youíre scrambling to find your class. Weíve all had those nightmares: the ones starring you back in high school, wandering the halls in a panic trying to find your classroom. We bet that your high school was a lot smaller than your new university campus!

If your campus is relatively small, however, then youíre in luck. You probably donít have much to figure out, as there will be fewer buildings to navigate. If you are on a large campus, however, take heart. You will be very grateful that you learned where your classes were ahead of time, if nothing else.

Finding Food and Drink

At some point your learning mind is going to need some nourishment. Take a look at your map again. Where is the main campus eatery, or cafeteria? Even the smallest campuses usually have at least one full cafeteria for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you have a meal plan through your school, find out how to use it and when the cafeteria is open. Also find out on what days, and for what meals, you can use your meal plan and which ones require cold hard cash (or plastic.)

However, your cafeteria will only get you so far. Sometimes you want a snack in the middle of the night, and your personal stores have been depleted after a weekend of playing video games or studying for that big exam. This is when you have to find alternative sources of food on your campus.

Almost all large and most medium-sized campuses will also have a student convenience store that runs late, if not 24-hours. Find out where these are and how late theyíre open. Do they take your meal plan or require actual money? What can you buy there? Hot foods? Cold foods and drinks? If your campus has more than one place, hit them all up ahead of time to get a feel for what they offer.

Health Facilities

If your school offers on-campus housing of any kind, odds are good that it also has a full clinic somewhere. Even if there is no on-campus housing, you may still be able to find a walk-in clinic for small ordeals or for referrals to other places.

Your map should clearly label where your health facility is. Like with the cafeteria, find out what hours theyíre open and if they handle emergencies. Most will allow walk-ins for students, but youíre probably better off making appointments, either at the counter or over the phone.

What services are offered through your campus clinic? Are they referrals only? Do they have doctors and nurses on staff that can offer prescriptions? Do they offer specific care for males and females? How about mental health? Do they have therapists on hand? (Most campuses do, due to the stressful nature of academia.)

Youíll also want to sort out your insurance. If you donít have insurance, talk to someone at the clinic. Many campuses offer a special insurance for their students that may, or may not, be a part of your semester expenses. Itís worth getting, even if you donít ďplanĒ on getting sick.

Administration and Safety

Itís hard to miss the big university student center on most campuses. But just in case, figure out where that is too, and which floors/departments offer what. Registration? Financial aid? How about the student store? Sometimes university centers are mazes unto themselves. If you have a big question to ask someone, it is important that you to know exactly where to go.

Next, youíll want to know where the campus safety offices are. They are usually near the university center but may be elsewhere. On large campuses, there may be multiple branches to offer coverage. These are the people you can go to if you have a medical emergency or safety concern. Learn the names and faces of the patrolling security officers for future reference.

Plan Your Routes

This is especially true for your classes, but you can also easily throw food in there as well. Before the first day of classes, plan your route from your dorm, apartment, or even house on the other side of the city. Find out how much time it will take to get you to your first class. Then figure out the most effective modes of travel. Can you walk it? Should you take a shuttle (if itís offered?)?

The most important thing to note here is actually putting your routes into practice before the first day of classes. As soon as you can, actually travel your routes to see how long it takes you. You may even be able to find some shortcuts.

Itís also important to plan your food routes in there as well. Odds are youíre going to want lunch sometime during your day. What cafes or cafeterias are along your routes between classes? How much time do you have to eat? Can you eat in class?

You will be amazed at how relieved you will feel on the first day of classes. Youíll be able to breeze through without much worry. As soon as you know your campus like the back of your hand, youíre already well on your way to rocking your college career.


Once the shock of the honeymoon phase has ended, you will be presented with a new challenge - homesickness, in all of its annoying, depressing forms. In this section weíll take a look at the different ways you can combat homesickness, allowing you to get back to your new college life with a more positive attitude and desire to learn.

Understanding Homesickness

First, itís important to recognize exactly what homesickness is. Usually, after a few days in your new environment, you will begin to pine for the comforts of home, no matter how far away it is. You may romanticize certain aspects of your home that drove you crazy while you were there. For example, you may miss your bedroom, seeing your parents every day, or your pets.

This is completely normal, and almost every freshman goes through it. So, donít feel ashamed if you find yourself tearing up at night because you would give anything to hold your dog again, or to do something as simple as going grocery shopping with your parents. This is an important part of the growing process for many young adults.

While homesickness is normal and should probably be expected, itís important to also realize that you canít let it rule your life. Homesickness has a nasty habit of getting between you and your ability to grow as an adult and as a human being. Thatís why weíre going to go over some techniques to help you deal with it.

Bring Something from Home

A great way to ease the transitioning process is to bring some of your favorite items from home. Most freshmen choose to bring a couple of stuffed animals, pictures of their friends and family, flowers, or even homemade quilts made by grandma. It doesnít matter what it is, as long as no one is allergic to it and itís within the rules of your dorm and campus.

Youíve got a dorm room Ė use it for more than sleeping! Make it into a haven for you to return to for some peace, quiet, and privacy. This will let you recharge and self-reflect. Surround yourself with the comforts of home and be instantly transported back there.

Our only caveat is that you shouldnít bring so much stuff that itís hard to travel with, no matter how tempting it may be. Also, donít be surprised if certain items actually make your homesickness worse. There is some trial and error involved, but after the first few weeks youíll know what works best for you.

Set Up Phone and Video Dates with Your Family

The odds are good that one of the things youíre missing the most is your dear family. You may have taken them for granted before, but if this is your first time being away from home for a long period of time, you are bound to miss your family and friends something fierce.

The good news is that, in this era of digital technology, itís very easy to keep in touch. Youíll be amazed at how much better you feel after speaking to your family. How often should you talk to them? Only you can know for sure. Some people like to have a brief phone call to ďcheck inĒ every evening. Some will set aside an hour or two on the weekends to talk on Skype or over the phone.

If you miss your family, then they probably miss you a lot too. Youíre not only benefiting yourself by keeping in touch, but also your loved ones who are thinking about you too. Set up Skype and phone dates to keep everyone happy and healthy. Sometimes the only people who can truly understand what youíre going through are those the farthest away.

Visiting Home

Sometimes, when your homesickness is so bad, the only option is to go home for a weekend visit. Of course, this may be impossible for people who live too far away and donít have the means to get there. But for those who do, going home for a quick visit may be just what they need to recharge and tackle their new college life.

If you go home, make sure that itís only for a brief visit. Donít fall into a hole that makes you think you should quit school. Thatís the homesickness talking. (Unless youíre having other issues at your university, which we will go over later.) This is also a great chance to be reminded of those things that youíre missing, such as home cooking and hanging out with your folks. Many freshmen find that going home halfway through the semester is just what they need to be hale and happy at school.

Distracting Yourself

For those who canít visit home or want an even more general solution, then distracting yourself is the answer for you. By distracting yourself, we mean taking your mind off your homesickness when it rears its ugly head. If you start to feel that pining deep in your soul, distract yourself with a game, homework, or by socializing with school friends.

Your campus probably has a lot of ways in which you can distract yourself. Find out what events are going on and how you can get involved. Join clubs, take up sports, go to the gym, or change your environment by hanging out in the library or a campus cafť. If your homesickness is immobilizing you, take a nap. Youíll feel refreshed when you wake up later.

Dealing with homesickness can affect anyone, even if they donít think that thereís much to miss back home. For those going away for the first time in their lives, take heart. Your experience is not unique, which is a good thing. By recognizing it and deciding to do something about it, you are already prolonging your academic career. There are lots of online resources to help you with homesickness if it becomes that serious.


One of the most memorable parts of college is making new friends from all sorts of backgrounds. For freshmen coming from small communities, this is a particularly huge deal. Even if you are not that interested in friendship, odds are very strong that you will make at least one or two life-long friends while you are in college.

These people will be a part of your support system, both now and in the future. They will be your connections in other cities, future jobs, and provide advice that you didnít even know you needed. But how do you meet these wonderful people? Weíll take a look at that in this section.


If you are forced to interact with anyone anywhere, itís going to be in class. This can be a good thing, because youíll already have something in common with the person or people. Whether you love your class or not, you can commiserate with your classmates as an in to getting to know them.

Of course, like anywhere else, all sorts of people will turn up in your classes. But itís a safe environment to learn about other people, since your professor will be mediating discussion, giving you the chance, over a few weeks, to decide if you like someone and want to be his or her friend.

Dorm mates

You have another easily accessible set of potential friends in your dorm mates. Donít be surprised if they show up at your door within one day of moving in, introducing themselves and hoping to make some friends.

The friends that you make in a dorm are some of the best that you could make. Not only are they easy to visit at eleven at night, but also they are also a lot more likely to follow your requests if youíre friendly with them. Such requests may include asking them to be quiet while youíre studying, or helping to keep common areas clean. By making friends with your neighbors, these things become much easier to achieve.

There is another bonus to making friends with the other people in your dorm. When you do this, you build a sense of community that you canít achieve elsewhere. You may or may not be interested in ďdorm pride,Ē but when you feel that you are coming home to a community, you also feel like youíre a part of a family. This can help you fight homesickness and give you a comforting environment at the end of a long day.

Campus Events

Donít care for the people in your dorm? Not too into your classmates? Donít fret: there are other places to meet people for potential friendships and connections! If youíre looking to get out of your room and meet people you never otherwise would meet, then look up some of the campus events going on in your area.

Campus events cover many types of things. They may be university pride building like a pep rally, or they may be free movie nights, concerts, guest speakers, or even full-blown festivals that promote community. The size of your school will play a big part in how easy it is to meet people this way. The bigger the school, the bigger the turnouts.

Of course, it can be difficult finding the perfect people in these big, noisy crowds. But if youíre an outgoing person who isnít shy about approaching people, then this is a great way to jump in and shake some hands. Not everyone will end up being your friend, but you are bound to find a few people who will pleasantly surprise you over the long run.

Clubs and Sports

If campus events seem a bit too daunting for you, then it may be time to look into playing a sport or joining a club that involves one of your interests. Many colleges will surprise you with the amount of sports that they offer, especially compared to small high schools.

The same goes for clubs. While not every club will cater to your interests, there are bound to be some that do. For example, if youíre from Hawaii and your mainland campus has a lot of students from Hawaii, there may be a club just for those students. Itíll give you the chance to fight some of that homesickness while celebrating what you love about your home.

Besides regional clubs, there are clubs for hobbies, politics, entertainment, activism, volunteerism, and just about anything else you can think of. Donít see a club you like? Start your own! Odds are, there are other students hungry for your idea. Most colleges make it pretty easy to start an official club, so itís worth looking into.

As for sports, many freshmen find a sense of teamwork helps them to make friends easily. No wonder, when you will share similar schedules and have lots of time to talk to one another.

Approaching People

If you are reading through this section and thinking, ďWell, thatís nice and all, but how do I approach these people to begin with? Iím too shy!Ē itís totally understandable. For many freshmen, approaching new people to make friends can be terrifying. Will they like you? Are you still cool? Or uncool?

Learning how to approach people is an important life skill, and your freshman year of college is a perfect time to grow into it.

Actually approaching people will be different for everyone. Some people just jump in and strike up conversations. Other people like to observe their potential friends to get a feel for what they might be looking for in somebody else. Itís kind of like dating, but without a lot of the pressure.

After youíve been in college for a while, making friends will come naturally to you. As you near graduation, you will look at the friends that you have made in college and wonder how you even met. Thatís the beauty of college friendships Ė they hit you when most convenient, and without you even realizing it.


When you later look back on your college years, one thing in particular will probably stand out in your mind - the roommate experience. Every freshman that doesnít live at home goes through this, whether they live in an apartment or a dorm. Many sophomores do too. The roommate experience is a big thing that will either make your college years fantastic or absolutely dreadful.

There are a lot of layers that come with having a roommate in college. In this section weíve put together some tips to help you have harmony in your room, make friends with your roommate, and deal with any issues that may come along your way.

Before You Move In Together

As soon as you receive your roommate assignment, you will also probably receive a way to contact them, either through email or the phone. We highly recommend that you make contact with your new roommate as soon as possible. Just because theyíre not contacting you doesnít mean they want nothing to do with you. Theyíre probably just shy!

There is a lot that you can do to establish a relationship with your roommate before you even move in together. Get started by talking about where youíre from and what excites you about going to college. Remember, this person is probably also a freshman, and you already have a lot in common.

Once you get to know each other a little bit, start deciding who is going to bring what to the dorm room. After all, youíre not going to need two of everything, especially since most freshmen dorms are tiny. Decide who will bring the TV, refrigerator, and certain dishes if you think that youíre going to cook a lot. It would also be a smart idea to discuss any video game systems or DVD players you may want to bring.

Not only is talking about what youíre bringing to your shared room practical, but itís also a great icebreaker to help you get to know your roommate more.

Laying Ground Rules

As soon as you are moved in together, itís a good idea to start laying some ground rules with your roommate. This way youíll be on exactly the same page when it comes to certain things in your lives. Itíll give you the upper hand on respecting and being respected by this person youíve just met.

What kind of rules should you consider? First, figure out what your sleep schedules are like. Is your roommate a heavy or light sleeper? Will you be disturbed if your roommate is up late working and youíre trying to sleep? (In which case they should go somewhere else to work?) How about foods? Is one of you a vegetarian uncomfortable with meat in the room?

Other things to consider are guests (including overnight ones,) phone conversations, borrowing things, cleanliness, and anything else you can think of that might affect your life with your roommate. Put everything out in the open as soon as you can. Youíll be grateful you did.

Sharing Things

So, weíve established that youíre probably going to want to coordinate with your new roommate what you should or shouldnít bring. Not only does this save you space in your room, but it also opens you up to sharing things. If youíre bringing the TV, when can your roommate use it? How about food? If youíre very friendly with your roommate, you may even be sharing food staples.

Sharing is something we all learned as children, but it can be difficult to adjust to a total stranger living in your space. Because youíre not just sharing your things with someone else - youíre also sharing your personal space, sometimes more so than anything else.

Dealing with Issues

Even roommates who get along really well will run into some problems. Roommates who only tolerate each otherís presence or outright hate each other will find things trickier to navigate.

So what do you do? This is why you should lay your rules beforehand and adhere to them, so at the very least you can live in some relative harmony even if you donít like each other. But what if the other person is not cooperating?

Hopefully you are both able to be adults and work out your problems. What is bothering you? Your roommate? What can you do to come to an agreement, even if itís just a ceasefire? Then again, what if your roommate has become so toxic or belligerent that you simply canít take it anymore?

At some point you may reach your breaking point. As admirable as it is to try to sort things out, you have to take care of yourself as well. No one should have to live in a toxic environment if they can help it. So what do you do?

Getting a New Roommate

Only a small percentage of freshmen are going to ever have to get a new roommate. However, it is something that happens with enough regularity that many residences have very strict protocols in place to deal with this.

First, talk to your RA. He or she will be able to help you mediate any issues with your roommate. This is also a good opportunity for someone with some power to see how things are in your situation. They will either tell you ways to make things better, or tell you the next step in getting a new roommate.

This will vary widely depending on the school, but the norm is that you will have to go to your residency bureau to ask for a new roommate. Things get tricky here. Either you or your roommate will have to be the one to move out of your room. If youíre moving out, youíre going to need somewhere else to move in. You will either be assigned a place at random, or you could move off campus (if eligible) or with a friend who has an opening.

If your roommate is moving out, youíre probably going to get a new roommate if itís still early in the year. In this case youíll want someone lined up, or take your chances with having someone in overflow assigned to you. Either way, cross your fingers that your new living situation is a much better environment for you.


During your first semester you may not have much choice regarding your first set of classes. However, if you do, and for future reference, we have some tips for you. This section will help you make the right class decisions now, so that youíre not scrambling to complete certain classes later on as an upperclassman. This will not only save you money in tuition, but also bring you some peace of mindÖ, which is invaluable in college.

Thinking About a Major

Most universities require their students to declare a major by their junior year. This gives you some time to think about what you want to study, and there is usually no pressure in your freshman year to make any final decisions. Indeed, most universities encourage their students to use their freshman year to try out different subjects across many departments and teaching styles.

While you are not pressured to think about your potential major now, it is still a good idea to have a solid foundation going in. If you are in a specialty university, itís probably because there is something about its focus that interests you. If you are in a liberal arts college, there are a lot of options to choose from.

If you have a good idea of what you may want to pursue, then now is the time to get a jump on it. Choose introductory classes that may also cover some of the mandatory classes your school requires you to take. This way, if you decide to go into a different field of study later on, you havenít completely wasted your time and credits.

But if you have no idea what you want to focus your studies on, take your universityís advice and spread yourself out a little. Take courses in the sciences, math, languages, histories, or whatever looks interesting to you. Half of all students seem to have an idea of what they want to study when they arrive but end up changing their minds anyway. Itís completely normal.

Considering a Minor

While double majoring is something a few students manage to pull off, many others prefer to instead focus their other interests into a minor. Very few universities make declaring a minor a requirement, but still offer them.

Minors are different from a major in that they usually supplement your primary focus. For example, you may become a politics major who ends up taking a lot of rhetoric classes because they are related. Your rhetoric credits may add up high enough for you to declare it as a minor and put it on your degree. This makes you more marketable to future employers.

Of course, many people also use a minor as a way to pursue studies that may not be very marketable to employers, but still greatly interest them. For another example, the politics major may minor in physical education because they enjoy taking those sorts of classes. The two are not related, but it rounds out your education and can be an interesting talking point.

Essentially, if you can fit in credits for a minor, then itís a very good thing to have on your diploma.

Required Credits

If you attend a liberal arts college (or really any kind of college these days,) expect to see a firm list of required credits that you must take in order to graduate. It doesnít matter if you came to this school to study German and nothing but German culture: your school is still probably going to ask you to take science, literature, and English writing courses.

There are many reasons for this. The primary one is that liberal arts colleges advertise their ďwell-roundedĒ educations and thus want to make sure that you try out many subjects. Other colleges want to make sure that youíre not making a mistake with your chosen field of study. And, sometimes, itís all about making sure that some more unpopular departments get to stay open because the classes are mandatory.

If you take away any piece of advice from this book, let this be the main one - get your required credits out of the way as soon as possible. One of the biggest nightmares a student can face is entering their senior year and still having to take an introductory science course that includes a lab Ė both of which conflict with their thesis schedules.

By killing many birds with one stone (i.e., taking major related credits that coincide with required credits,) youíll be well on your way to graduating on time with enough openings to take some fun classes as well.

Amount of Work per Class

Something else youíll want to keep in mind while picking your classes every semester is the amount of work involved in all of them. The last thing you want is to be overwhelmed with work because you picked three or four classes that are notorious for it.

There are many ways to find out how much work is involved with a class. Sometimes it will be right in the description. Science classes with labs tend to have a lot of work involved, since itís like taking two classes in one. What about classes with a focus on writing papers, as opposed to classes that are more discussion based?

Ask your friends or classmates who have taken some of the classes youíre thinking of taking. How did they find the workload? Was it challenging in a good way, or just busy work? All of these things are what you must consider when it comes to putting together your schedule. Of course, very few students get to have a perfect schedule of any kind, but you can do your best to make sure your schedule will give you lots of time to breathe while also being academically challenging.


As a new student, one of your biggest concerns is going to be doing well in class. Not a surprise, since you or your parents are probably shelling out thousands of dollars for you to go to your university.

So how can you guarantee that you do well in your new, challenging classes? Or at least do well enough to pass with the marks needed to graduate? This section will give you the advice necessary to help you get the most out of your education.

Learning About Your Professors

Your first Ďiní to getting good grades, and learning a lot in your class, is getting to know your professors. We donít necessarily mean learning about their hobbies and having dinner with them; although, some professors encourage that and you may encounter a few who are like that.

We mean getting to learn their idiosyncrasies and what they expect out of their students. On your first day of class, youíre going to get a syllabus that lists the expectations of your new professor. He or she will probably go over this in class.

Take notes. No, really, take notes. Not just what is on the syllabus, but how your professor acts in the coming weeks. Is he forgiving for late assignments if you clear them with him first? Does she grade hard? What does your professor expect in terms of showing up to class? Is it three strikes and youíre out?

Youíre going to have to learn these things for many professors right away. But donít worry. The odds are good that youíll get the hang of things fairly quickly.

Types of Classes

You will quickly discover what kind of classes you do the best in. Didnít know that there are many types of classes? Just like in high school, college also promotes different kinds of learning environments and class styles.

The different types of classes include but are not limited to: discussion based, writing based, labs, models based on real life, and lecture based. Keep in mind that many classes will overlap, but the brief definitions for these are below.

Discussion based.

You will be expected to contribute to the conversations, even if you donít really understand whatís going on. (In that case, ask!) Grades are mostly participation based.

Writing based.

You will be assigned papers and responses throughout the term. Your grade will mostly hang on how will you tailor your papers to your professorís standards.


One class will mostly be lecture based, but the labs are about getting hands on discovering things the old fashioned way. Your professor will probably expect you to write your findings up, and you will be graded for both participating and writing up your labs.


These are rare, but basically you will create a ďmodelĒ based on a real life organization or phenomenon. These are more common in politics and sociology classes. (For example, a model UN.)

Lecture based.

Your professor will do a lot of talking while you take notes. Grades will probably be test based.

Group Work

If you hear grumblings about your classes from your friends and dorm mates, it probably has to do with a group project holding everyone up. Group projects are notorious in colleges because they usually combine people who have never met before, let alone have similar schedules. What almost always ends up happening is that one or two people take on the sole responsibility for the project while everyone else gets the same amount of credit.

There are a few ways to navigate the inevitable group project waters. The first is to try to get into a group of people that you know, or at least have similar schedules to. Thereís almost nothing more groan worthy than being a freshman paired with a very busy senior.

Next, delegate the work. Someone may do most of the research and forward it to the others, while someone else puts the research together and yet another person writes it up. You will also have to decide who will do the presenting, or if it will be split up.

What do you do if your group members flake out on you? First, give them a chance to return to the fold. If they still refuse, go to your professor and explain whatís going on. Half the time your professor will try to work with you to find a solution, but the other half of the time you may be on your own. Welcome to college.

Studying, Papers, and Tests

If youíre in school, then youíre probably aware that at some point youíre going to have to do a lot of studying. Some students graduated high school well versed in how to properly study without hurting their brains. Others severely struggled, and to this day donít have the necessary study skills to help them get through most classes.

Does this latter person sound like you? Donít fret. There are many other freshmen just like you. Your school probably offers writing centers to help you learn how to write papers, and testing centers to help you learn valuable study skills. There is also trial and error that will help you learn what works best for you.


Almost every department will have its own tutoring center. These are headed by upperclassmen that are probably majoring in the subjects that you need tutoring in. They could also be student teachers if itís a larger university.

If you are struggling, or falling behind in a class, look up what tutoring services are offered. There is no shame in needing tutoring. In fact, you will probably meet some of your classmates there. These tutoring centers are usually free of charge, although you are certainly welcome to hire your own private tutor if you think that would be more beneficial to you.

Ultimately, you want to find a way to help you learn the class materials while also passing well. Unless youíre on a specific scholarship or grant, you probably wonít have to worry about making straight Aís or getting the illustrious 4.0Ö or higher.

Balancing Classes and Fun

There are two sides to college life that everyone experiences. The first is the rigorous academia that is the whole reason you went to begin with. However, there is also the fun, infamous side to college life. This includes late nights playing video games with friends, making pizza runs at two in the morning, and the frat parties and dances that go on almost every weekend.

College is hard work, but itís also a lot of fun. Balancing work and fun is a life skill every adult needs to master before heading out into the world. Youíve probably heard the horror stories of the freshmen that jumped into college life too quickly and ended up dropping out. Obviously, you donít want to be like those people, so weíre going to take a look at some good ways to balance school and fun.

Time Management and Prioritization

The greatest sub-skill you could learn is time management. This is learning how to schedule your day to make sure things that have to be done are accomplished.

Some people have a natural gift for time management. Others grew up in environments that promoted it and made sure that they learned how to do it, even if it was not a natural gift. Yet if you are someone who has made it to college and still doesnít know how to manage his or her time effectively, donít feel too bad. You are just like thousands of other students who have never had to know this.

Want a crash course in time management? First, invest in a nice day planner that you can carry around with you. Then read on.

The key to time management is prioritization. The things with the highest priority are going to be your classes and appointments for group projects or with your professors. Write them down in your day planner, making sure to give yourself a half hour before and after classes to talk to the professor and to get where youíre going. Write these down in a color that will signify their extreme importance, like red.

Next, put in any of your commitments to activities. Club meetings, sports practices, volunteer workÖ write them down in your planner in a color that is important but flexible if necessary. Try purple, as it is close to red but not as urgent.

Finally, you will have your social activities and commitments- parties, events, and the like. Write these down in a cool color, like blue. Now your planner should be quite colorful, showing you exactly how busy you are and what your commitments are.

Anything blank is your free time. We highly recommend that you also plan out when you want to do your paper writing and studying. Sundays are the most popular for students, but that can be cutting it a bit close for many people. If you have nothing going on for long periods of time on other days, set them aside in green to show that you plan on focusing on your studies then.

Now, the white spaces are truly your free time. Meals, exercising, video games, sleepingÖ do whatever you want (within reason) to rejuvenate yourself. This is also when you can be spontaneous, like if a friend pops over to your dorm room and invites you out for food or to hang out in a group. If your schedule is clear, you can confidently say, ďSure!Ē

But what if your schedule isnít clear?

Learning to Say No

This can be especially hard to do in college, which in a way is an extension of high school, in the sense that you donít want to be ďuncool.Ē Saying no to friends is like shooting yourself in the foot. But if you look at your schedule and see that you have a paper due the next day, itís probably in your best interests to learn how to say no.

Saying no should not be confused with being rude or aggressive. If you must say no, explain to your friends why you cannot join them today. If they give you flack or tell you to forget your studies, then you may want to rethink whether they have your best interests in mind. Good friends will understand that you have academic obligations. Odds are they have a few of those as well.

The danger of not saying no goes beyond just not getting things done. If it becomes a habit, then youíre looking at a college career of putting things off, not to mention letting others control your life. Be firm with your friends when thereís something more pressing that needs to be done.


Many students may hang up quirky posters in their rooms that talk about the love-hate relationship they have with procrastination, but itís a very real thing that rears its ugly head the farther along you are in your studies.

Procrastination is more than just putting things off until later. Itís a real thing that afflicts many studentsí ability to study and get things done in a timely manner. When you procrastinate writing a paper, for example, youíre looking at a long, long night of writing five-thousand words in one go. Some people thrive off this pressure, but most do not.

How can you prevent procrastination when it comes to schoolwork? By following most of the tips we have already given you. No, seriously, itís as simple as that!

Be very thorough in your research when it comes to projects. This way, when you schedule out how many words of a paper you want to do in a day, you can just sit down and do it, as opposed to sitting in front of your laptop and staring at a blank screen. This is a dangerous situation to be in, as it will only promote your procrastination habits.

Plan, schedule, and prioritize. Just like you would do so to keep your social life in check from taking over your academic life, so should you do this in order to keep procrastination at bay.


One of the biggest obstacles youíll face going to college isnít academic or social. No, in this day and age, one of your most pressing issues is going to be finding ways to pay for your education and housing.

Decades ago, students were able to pay by either doing summer jobs or working a part time job all year. This is probably what your mother or father has told you about in relation to their experiences. Sadly, this model doesnít really exist anymore as tuition and housing costs have completely inflated while wages have not.

Up until about a decade ago, the previous generation of students had a different method. They took on mountains of debt with the understanding that they would be able to get a good paying job after graduating. Indeed, many of them did. These jobs allowed them to pay off their large debts quickly and efficiently, so it was like they never existed.

Sadly, in the current job market this isnít a reality any more either. More and more students are graduating, only to discover that they cannot get a job in their chosen fields, and that the jobs they can, and do, get are often the part time ones that their parents once worked.

So how can you pay for college, or at least graduate with little debt?

Scholarships and Grants

At the beginning of your senior year of high school, you will begin looking at the scholarships and grants available to you. These will be based on your background, your location, your parentsí jobs, the field of study you want to get into, the school youíre going to, and a multitude of other things that you may be able to influence.

These scholarships and grants are your main meal tickets to college. They may either be hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars. Sure, they take a lot of work to make it worth it, but thatís work you wonít have to do later on to pay back debt that is accruing interest.

You should start applying for these sources of money as soon as possible, usually early on in your senior year of high school. But hereís the kicker. You need to keep applying for these as you go through the semesters, as they may only last for a set amount of time or not automatically recur.

Hereís where some reality sets in. Many universities report that the dropout rate between freshman and sophomore year is exponentially higher than between any other years. Why is this? Of course, some students realize that college isnít for them and drop out after only a year. Others, however, run out of money.

But how? They had all of those great scholarships, right? Hereís something a lot of guidance counselors wonít tell you - scholarships are made to get kids into college, but they arenít great at keeping them there.

See, most scholarships are for freshmen only. After your first year, you will quickly discover that there are very few opportunities for a sophomore or higher to get funding. This is why so many students end up having to drop out. Those scholarships youíre bending over backwards to get may only last you one year, and youíre going to need backup plans.

Working Through School

Itís not a bad idea to get a job, if you can, while going to school. (Of course, youíd better be good at scheduling!) However, we recommend that you wait until at least your second semester or until you have a good feel for how college life goes before you commit time to a job as well.

Places of employment, either on or around your campus, are probably very familiar with dealing with a studentís schedule and can work with you. Odds are, they employ many students and are used to it. This will also save you on transportation costs, especially if youíve left your car at home to save some cash Ė that could go toward your tuition.

Also, check to see if you qualify for work-study programs through your school. This is doing work on your campus in exchange for a tuition cost deduction, although you can also get cash in some cases. Students who qualify for work-study usually get a certain limit every semester or year. Jobs can include working at the library, tutoring, catering, campus safety, retail, administrative work, or just about anything you can think up. Not only that, but you also get valuable work experience to put on your resume.

Managing Your Finances

It doesnít hurt to save money, while also trying to make money. Before you went to college, you probably heard about the credit trap many new students fall into. Credit card companies see college freshmen as easy prey because theyíre likely to spend a lot and then fall into an endless cycle of credit debt.

Having a credit card is a staple of building up a credit rating and for dealing with financial emergencies. To that end, itís not a bad idea to have one with a good rate. But you shouldnít use it just because you can.

Itís also important to have a budget that you adhere to. Donít spend too much on eating outside of your meal plan or going to the movies, unless you can really afford it. Starting to live independently means taking good care of your personal finances, a skill that will last you until the day you die. No one wants to graduate with credit card debt on top of their educational debt. Spare yourself the trouble as much as you can and learn how to budget.

Itís important to realize that you may not be able to pay your way through school, especially if youíre going to an expensive institution. But you will be doing yourself a huge favor by finding monetary sources and saving where you can. Youíll be very grateful that you did this by the time you graduate and get your first loan statement in the mail!


While youíre caught up with learning and trying to make new friends, it can be easy to completely forget to take proper care of yourself, physically and mentally. Before itís too late and some damage has been done, weíre going to encourage you to take a look at our tips below for staying healthy and sane during your freshman year of college Ė and beyond.

Staying Safe

College campuses tend to be called ďbubblesĒ because they offer everything a small town has and donít necessarily encourage students to leave campus, especially if they live there. To that end, campuses can be safe from most major crimes such as homicides and grand larceny.

But no campus is perfectly safe, and youíve doubtlessly heard about what can go wrong through both the news and the local grapevine.

The most common crimes that occur on college campuses are drug and assault related. There may also be a lot of petty theft if you donít remember to lock up your dorm room whenever you leave it. But weíre going to assume that you know how to keep your things safe. How about yourself?

Your campus safety center should have multiple branches if itís a large campus. In the spaces where there isnít much coverage, there are alarm buttons you can press if you feel that you are in danger. Learn where these are and how to best implement them.

Itís not a bad idea to also learn some self-defense. Your college probably offers some courses, and you may even be able to get credit for them.

However, the most common place where crimes are committed is at parties, especially those with alcohol and drugs. Learn what your drink limit is and never, ever get blacked out drunk. This is important both for your overall safety and for protecting yourself from crime. Donít leave your drink unattended when at a party or with a group of people you donít know.

Eating Right (and Avoiding the Freshman 15)

When youíre far away from home and your motherís hounding that you eat right, it may be tempting to go crazy and eat all the junk food you want. After all, youíre an adult now, right? Of course, youíre well within your right to eat whatever you wantÖ but part of being an adult is also knowing how to make healthy eating choices.

Only your doctor or dietician can truly tell you what you should or shouldnít eat, but in general itís a good idea to refrain from eating too many sugary or greasy foods. Sure, most of that stuff is free on your meal plan, but why not pick up some fruits to take back to your dorm room?

Jokes abound about the ďFreshman 15,Ē or the phenomenon of college freshmen gaining 15 pounds once they arrive. This is usually because of the abundance of food theyíre given and eating it indiscriminately. Unless youíre already underweight, gaining fifteen pounds usually isnít a good idea. This is why itís important to still monitor what you eat and make sure you eat good, nutritious foods. They will also help you learn better!

Home Skills

While you were probably in charge of some chores growing up, youíll be amazed at what you still have to learn once youíre on your own. Itís not just you either. Your roommates and friends are probably covertly trying to learn some things as well. Except nobody likes to talk about these things, because implying that youíre a legal adult who canít do simple household chores is like saying, ďHow did I get to college again?Ē

It would be smart for you to spend a part of your summer, before you leave home, learning some things from your parents, or even the Internet. Then practice before you end up in a dorm with everyone watching you.

One thing youíre going to have to really know how to do is laundry, both washing and drying. There are many types of machines out there, and dorm ones tend to be slightly outdated. Youíll want to know what kind of soap you should use and how to sort everything.

Now is also a great time to brush up on your cooking skills. Even simple things, such as healthy stovetop and microwave meals, are a great idea. Hop in the kitchen at home and get someone in your family or friends network to help you. Theyíll love teaching you, and itíll give you the chance to have some last minute bonding and memory making with your loved ones.

Mental Health

At some point during college Ė and probably many times Ė youíre going to become stressed and overwhelmed. Friends, classes, papers, tests, and possibly employment will all conspire to make life more difficult for you.

Dealing with these issues is never easy, but there are ways to manage and promote your mental health. The first step is taking care of yourself physically, by eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep every night. (Although you are bound to pull an all-nighter here and there.)

If you are finding that doing these things is difficult or youíre still not feeling better, then talk to your friends and family. Think back to how you treat your homesickness and turn to those solutions.

Still not feeling better? Donít worry. Many people donít. Now is the time to turn to a professional, however. Your local student clinic probably has therapists on hand who can give you advice, diagnose any issues that you may have, or just be an impartial shoulder to cry on. Donít be ashamed if you need to see a therapist. More people do than you probably realize.

Therapists can also help you with your academic challenges. No, they wonít do your homework for you, but they can talk to your professors on your behalf or prescribe solutions if you are struggling with tests or papers. One thing you may look into, if youíre struggling to complete your tests on time, and accurately, is asking a therapist to recommend that you get extra time to do your tests. This would mean having someone else administrate your test for you while you get some peace and quiet to do your work.


Youíve just learned nine different ways to get the most out of your freshman year at college. Of course, not everything may have applied to you, but we bet a lot of it did.

What can you take away from this book? Letís recap.

Your Campus:

Learn the layout of your new campus like the back of your hand. Youíre probably living there. Or at least will be spending large chunks of your day there. By learning the ins and outs of your campus, such as where your classes are and where you can get food, you can save yourself a lot of time and a lot of agony later on.


It happens to everyone, and itís nothing to be ashamed of. Find ways to bring pieces of your home with you, and donít forget to call your folks once in a while. If it gets too tough, find new activities to get involved in that wonít just remind you of home.

Making Friends:

You may worry about impressing people and making friends easily now, but we bet that it will come so naturally that youíll barely notice it happening. College is a crazy time of huge change. Remember, youíre not the only one going through it, and youíre bound to find some schoolmates who feel the same way as you.


Donítí be surprised if you end up really connecting or disconnecting from your roommate. Try to work things out before you even move in together, and lay some ground rules once you do move in. If all else fails, talk to your RA or residence office to find out what you can do to get a new roommate.


The classes you take will define the education you receive. You will face a mixture of classes taken solely for pleasure and classes taken because your school is making you. Try to get the latter out of the way as soon as possible, and donít be afraid to check out different departments. You probably donít have to pick a major or minor right now.


Every class Ė and every professor Ė is different in their own unique way. By learning how things work early on, you are more likely to succeed where others before you have complained about the level of difficulty. And donít forget to study! Learn new study habits if you have to. Your education will thank you.

Balancing Work and Fun:

Itís important to get both your work done and to have some fun on the side, whatever that means to you. However, donít sacrifice too much work for too much fun. Remember, youíre going to college to get a degree to use throughout your adulthood. As great as some memories will be to you later on, youíll be even more grateful to have a lot of education to back you up.

Paying For College:

Make sure that you are always looking for grants and scholarships that you qualify for, and donít forget to practice good saving and spending habits. Get a part time job if you can. Not only will it help you pay for college, but it will also give you invaluable job experience.

Take Care Of Yourself:

Ultimately, you wonít get much out of your college career if you donít remember to take care of yourself physically and mentally. Remember to relax now and then, and donít be ashamed to get help from a therapist if you need it.

Youíre about to have a life-changing experience. As scary as it is, weíre sure that you will absolutely rock it. Good luck on your new road in life, and have even more good luck becoming the type of adult youíre destined to be. Remember all of the people supporting you, and consider yourself lucky that you have made it this far. Youíre going to do great!